10 Dos and Don’ts of User Retention

Note: This guest post was written by Paweł Hałabuda, an Inbound Marketer at Whalla Labs.

You want your app to be downloaded, installed, and actively used; otherwise what’s the point of developing it?

Unfortunately, much of the time, app managers have limited resources and have to focus directly on user acquisition or user retention. And though you should do both for the best results, I totally understand that sometimes one may fall by the wayside.

Now, you’ve noticed that the app abandonment rate is ridiculously high these days with almost 80% of users abandoning your app in the first three days, while acquiring users is getting more and more expensive.

Focusing on user retention, to prevent users from abandoning your mobile app, is a growing trend amongst mobile marketers.

In today’s post I will show you what to do — and more importantly, what not to do — while improving your user retention rate.


The 5 Dos and Don'ts of User Retention
Source: Picjumbo

5 Dos of User Retention

First, let’s see which mobile retention strategies are good for your mobile app.

1. Increase Organic Installs

Increase word-of-mouth buzz to encourage your loyal users to spread the news about your app to their friends.

How to do this: Let your users invite their friends, if possible, to share content among each other. Using social connections can significantly increase engagement and will help to promote your app for free.

2. Personalize Push Notifications

Push notifications can significantly decrease app abandonment rate. To make it even more powerful and efficient, you should personalize push to them.

Leanplum’s team analyzed over 1.5 billion push notifications and they found out that personalization can boost engagement even by 800 percent. Those are the numbers that should not be ignored.

How to do this: Add a user’s name or a specific piece of content — like a shopping cart item or breaking news announcement — to the message, ensuring they understand this is a personalized conversation, rather than a generic blast. Or employ a personalized machine learning algorithm, like Leanplum’s Optimal Time, which analyzes individual app engagement patterns to automatically send messages when users are most likely to open.

3. Implement Deep Linking

Deep linking means sending someone directly from your push notification to the relevant content. For example, if you send a push notification about breaking news, the deep link will send the reader to the article, rather than your app’s home screen.

By implementing deep linking, you can promote your mobile application in different channels, like social media or paid ads, sending people to specific sections or content in the app, assuring the best outcome of your campaigns.

How to do this: If you are familiar with mobile development, this is a great example of a tutorial showing how to implement deep linking on iOS app. We also recommend looking for a mobile marketing vendor who can help you deep link inside your messaging — like Leanplum.

Use deep linking to send people from ads to relevant content in your app.

4. Master Your App’s User Interface

People judge a book by its cover. They will do the same with your app’s user interface.

No matter how smart and useful your app may be, if it’s not compelling and easy to use, people will walk away after the first glance.

How to do this: Mastering UI may be complex, so it is better to focus on one thing at a time. Implementing visual hierarchy in your app design will make it simple, consistent, and easy to understand. Use shapes, colors, or highlights to show the importance of content in your app.

5. Take Care of Your Users

Listen to your users. They want you to answer their questions and solve problems within the app.

Respond to their comments, reviews, or in-app surveys to show that you care about their experience and want them to stick around long after they’re acquired.

How to do this: Show your audience that you care to attract more users to your app. Set up an in-app message asking users to rate your app in the App Store. Rather than putting a flat “yes” or “no” option, include a “send private feedback” option, so users can communicate feedback directly with your app development team. Alternatively, you can reach your users via an email survey, asking them specifically what are the things in your app that they don’t like and what they would like to change about it.

5 Don’ts of User Retention

Now, as you know how to improve your user retention rate, let’s take a look at things you should avoid at all costs.

1. Forgetting an Onboarding Process

You know what your app is all about and what is actually does. Your new users may not know it.

Leaving them to figure it all out by themselves can be the first signal for them that your app is not what they were looking for.

How to do this better: Create simple and easy-to-follow onboarding process via in-app messages to make the first contact with the app better for the first-timers. Use micro-interactions to inform your users about the steps he or she is making at the moment.

2. Ignoring Customer Feedback

I’ve talked before about taking care of your users to increase their retention. Ignoring their feedback is actually even more harmful.

Customer feedback is not only the message that something is wrong with your app. It can also be a suggestion about what is missing or what you can do better.

Ignoring users’ feedback will harm your retention rate and will make you miss opportunities for your further app development.

How to do this better: At first, set the email address meant specifically for user feedback, so you have all this in one place. Then set the auto response saying that you appreciate what they are saying and that you will get to it soon.

After implementing new features based on users’ feedback, let them know via push notification, in-app message, or email.

3. Sending Irrelevant Messages

Too-frequent and irrelevant push notifications, SMS, or emails can also harm your retention rate.

Let’s call it by its name: spam. No one likes spam, neither you nor your users. Make sure that every message you send is personalized to your audience.

How to do this better: Draw from rich customer data so every message you send is relevant. Leanplum’s rich analytics capture user interactions in both your messaging and in-app experience.

Spammy push notifications can really harm your retention rate

4. Clarifying Your Privacy Policy

Although not every user is that concerned about how an app collects and stores his or her personal data, some people will leave your app if something is unclear to them.

Take Pokémon GO as an example. The game broke all the records, including downloads, time in app, daily active users, etc. But when the privacy concerns appeared, even Pokémon GO had to fit users demands.

Making users comfortable about privacy is important for your app’s retention rate.

How to do this better: To avoid losing users because of a privacy policy, try to be fair with them about what kind of data you collect, how you will keep them safe, and why you need it. If it is not necessary, you should also avoid asking too personal questions about your users.

5. Complicating the User Experience

Similar to user interface, user experience is an important factor that will make your app’s first impression.

Especially the first-time user experience can make or break your app’s success. Based on how compelling it is to interact with your app, users will decide whether to stick with it or not.

How to do this better: Before even developing your app, create the app’s flowcharts. Then build a Minimum Viable Product and test it on your beta users to better understand how they interact with it. This way you will learn how to create the best user experience, using your real-life knowledge.


This short list of dos and don’ts was intended to show you how important it is to keep an eye on small details that user retention depends on.

You can have a brilliant idea and develop a stunning mobile app, spend lots of money on acquiring new users, but if abandonment rate will remain high — your effort is wasted.

Increase your user retention rate with these tips and watch user satisfaction soar.

Author Bio

Paweł Hałabuda is an Inbound Marketer at Whalla Labs (@WhallaLabs), mobile development company creating stunning mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and wearables. When he’s not writing, Paweł is an avid reader and a bad guitar player.